Learning from the Past

Nehemiah 9:16-17
But they and our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks, and hearkened not to thy commandments, And refused to obey, neither were mindful of thy wonders that thou didst among them; but hardened their necks, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage: but thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and forsookest them not.

Will this generation of Israel learn the importance of heeding the commandments of God?  He had graciously given them His law, His commandments and His promises.  He had given them everything they needed to have a right relationship with Him and have His blessings and favor upon them.  But the continual disobedience of the nation often led to disastrous results.  And now here were the captives returned to their land, the special place that God had given to them, and they listen to the Word and they recount the history of the nation, but will they now remain faithful to God, like He had been so faithful to them?

What will we learn from the mistakes of those who’ve gone before us?  Will we look back on all of these things and simply repeat their mistakes, or will we take to heart the lessons God has given to us and make better choices to secure a better future for us?  We see so often in Scripture the heart of man contrasted with the heart of God.  He is faithful where we are not.  He is gracious when we are full of rebellion.  He is kind when we are defiant.  And He never leaves us though we abandon Him.  And it is this same God who today asks of us the same thing He asked of Israel—to simply trust Him and obey.

Let us remember our own disobedience and where it had gotten us and what we had to endure because of it.  Let us remember the feeling of those cold metal chains upon our wrists and those burdens on our backs as we toiled in our bondage.  Let us remember the mournful emptiness we felt as we witnessed the utter destruction brought on by our disobedience.  Let us remember that sickening feeling in the bottom of our hearts when we realized we had betrayed our God of love.  And may those memories stir in us a new desire for faithfulness and righteousness and obedience to our gracious Father.

But more than being reminded of what we have done, let us remember the nature of the God we serve.  He is a God ready to pardon, so our repentance and sorrow over our sins draws us back to Him and allows us to experience redemption at His feet.  He is gracious and merciful, and so He will give us what we don’t deserve and He will set us free through the blood of Christ.  He is slow to anger, so He will be patient as we learn our lessons.  He is so kind, and so He will do good things for us.  So may we learn from the mistakes of others, as well as our own, so that we may continue to grow in the Lord instead of falling back into that old pattern of rebellion.